cover image The Boneshaker

The Boneshaker

Kate Milford, illus. by Andrea Offermann, Clarion, $17 (384p) ISBN 978-0-547-24187-6

Set in 1913, Milford's debut is a sure-footed, slow-burning thriller. Feisty 13-year-old Natalie has grown up in a small Missouri town located near a mysterious crossroads, listening to the local myths about it that her mother shares. When Dr. Limberleg opens the Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show, the townspeople (afraid of catching the neighboring town's flu) take to his products and team, who promote phrenology, hydrotherapy, magnetism, and amber therapy. Mechanically minded Natalie, however, is determined to get through the smoke and mirrors, and she finds that Dr. Limberleg's cures come with strings attached. "Most people are much older when they discover their world isn't the place they thought it was," he warns. "By then... sometimes... it's too late." The tale is shrouded in mystery and explores themes of gaining confidence and recognizing evil, and Milford's detail-rich prose makes it all the more haunting ("In the gaslight and what morning sun that filtered through the heavy curtains, startling shapes began to resolve themselves into familiar objects. Seeing them clearly didn't make her like them any better"). Final art not seen by PW. Ages 10–up. (May)